Los Angeles-based band The Expanders recently teamed up with renowned EDM artist Walshy Fire (of Major Lazer) to not only put out one rootsy riddim album, but two! With the latest LP release, Thanks For Life, now available on all digital outlets, the band took time to comment on their ever-unfolding career, the experience making the albums alongside an EDM legend and more.
Thank you for taking time to chat with us! It’s been about four years since we’ve last had an interview with you. Have there been any major changes since then?
- Yeah, Trump's president. LOL. There has been a change in the lineup in the last few months, with the departure of Devin Morrison. The split was amicable and we do wish him all the best in his future endeavors – musically and otherwise. The remaining members are all still committed to continuing our musical journey: writing and recording new music, as well as performing live. Chiquis Lozoya will be switching from bass to rhythm guitar and lead vocals (for those who have seen our live shows, you know that Chiquis can certainly hold it down as a lead singer!). We currently have Evan Hein (of Ital Vibes and Prime Livity) on bass. We are still committed to our three-part harmonies and John Asher is stepping up to backup vocals to maintain that three-part harmony sound The Expanders are so known for.
- We spent the last few years hitting the road pretty hard and with the lineup change, we want to switch the focus to writing and recording new original music. Our writing process can take some time as we are always very detail oriented in our approach. All of our albums' rhythm tracks are recorded live in the same room to analog tape, so we try to get everything as tight as possible before actually going into the studio to record. We want to stay true to that process and are currently putting together some new material. We are definitely excited about the new stuff that's been coming from our writing sessions!
- We have also ventured down a new road of collaborating! Our first effort was a collaboration with Walshy Fire from Major Lazor. We released the “Top Shelf” rhythm to team with international artists as Cocoa Tea, Queen Omega, Toke Music and others. And, our second collaboration, also with Walshy, was released October 12th.
For those that have not heard of your music, please describe your style of play.
- Classic, throwback Jamaican music infused with our combined experiences growing up listening and playing music in Los Angeles, CA. Our play style has always been rooted in that 'classic Jamaican reggae' sound of the late 70's and early 80's, however, we have been stretching out a little more stylistically these days. We've been opening up more to our personal influences outside of reggae, but ultimately, our new stuff still has been staying true to that classic sound.
Let's talk about the Thanks For Life riddim album: besides your own version, what is your favorite interpretation of your rhythm? Why does it represent the record so well?
- “Rubble Rebel (Champion)” by Randy Valentine because of the spirit of the song. First of all, to us, we felt like this song reflects the culmination of our growth so far into our journey of life and music as “The Expanders”. Secondly, the song embodies the sentiment of starting over or building up oneself in order to thrive. Everyone faces unfamiliar territory or intimidating situations. So, not having to go it alone during difficult transitions makes a huge difference in the outcome. Some of the lyrics Randy wrote are as follows, “Don’t you ever mek the pressure get the best of you // give a sup’m weh no one should ever do // not when you have a vision // You affi mek it your mission // Fi get up and rise up and show the world a better you… Oh what a lesson once I learned to put my trust in the essence that makes the breeze blow”… That’s an awesome message. When we come out victoriously, we are much better people for it and that’s a message we are proud to be a part of because we cannot do this alone. We need our fans, friends and family the same way we all need music.
What sort of elements influenced your recent albums? Were you listening to any other artists or were there new experiences?
- Our latest (original) album was HUGELY influenced by touring! We were fortunate to work with many extremely talented bands, which also afforded us the opportunity to interact with fans across the nation! These experiences were some of the crucial elements that went into the composition of the new album(s). The interactions and feedback from the fans proved invaluable going into the creative process that was Hustling Culture.
Tell us more about the new compilation album. Are there any collaborations?
- Yeah, tons of collaborations! The Walshy Fire and Expanders Thanks For Life and Top Shelf riddims were graced by Randy Valentine, Cocoa Tea, Queen Omega, Blessed, Promise, Toke (featuring Exile Di Brave), Hamai, Saje, Jaden Chase, Tiwony, Kye, Fyakin, BuzzRock, and instrumentalist Sean Taylor.
What are you most proud of about this release and why?
- This is a two-fold answer: first, we are proud to be recognized not only in America, but also in the Caribbean. Teaming up with Walshy Fire further opened the gates into connecting with that world of fans and artists. This is very exciting to us! He exemplifies the power of connecting with his fans and other artists, as he has been touring the world forming musical ties that will be celebrated for years to come. Second, Walshy Fire, coming from the EDM and dancehall world, and us, from the L.A. reggae scene, connect through our mutual passion for early Jamaican roots music. It is electrifying for these worlds to come together!
Where was the album recorded? Was it an enjoyable experience?
- All over the world with Walshy’s reach and the advent of modern technology, we recorded the songs here in L.A. and had the lyrics recorded in Jamaica, Canada, Germany and France.
Will we be seeing you on tour soon?
- We're focusing on new music at the moment. But, yes, we will get back out there soon!
Thanks again for taking the time out. Do you have anything additional that you want to say to your fans?
- We recognize the impact our music has had on our fans lives and we imbibe that energy to continue creating. The love is mutual.